The Reason I Jump

Naoki Higashida
Apr 28, 2014

Naoki Higashida is a thirteen-year-old boy with autism so severe that he cannot speak aloud.  But using an alphabet grid, he--letter by letter--has composed this missive from the depths of autism, revealing that a clever mind and keen perception lie behind the limits of his disorder.  Higashida approaches the topic through a series of questions, like "What's the worst thing about having autism?" and "Is it true that you hate being touched?"  His answers are illuminating and occasionally heart-breaking, like this one: "The hardest ordeal for us is the idea that we are causing grief for other people...the thought that our lives are the source of other people's unhappiness, that's plain unbearable."  Question by question, Higashida paints a vivid picture of what it's like to be trapped inside one's body and worse--trapped by one's mind.

The Reason I Jump was translated from its original Japanese by Cloud Atlas​ novelist David Mitchell and his wife KA Yoshida, and they did a marvelous job keeping Higashida's candor and clarity.  Yoshida and Mitchell translated the book because it helped them understand their own autistic child, but with autism now affecting one in sixty-eight American children, I would say this book is valuable for anyone, not just parents and teachers of autistic children.  And the unique perspective and and direct writing style would make this an excellent book for teen readers as well.  

Reviewed by Library Staff